The hopes and aspirations of 1,200 adivasis were reduced to ashes on January 25 this year, when a fire devastated 121 ha of forest area in Motewadi village situated in the Pune district of Maharashtra.
The adivasis here, led by Baba Pansare of Parivartan Prabodhini, had obtained the right to plant trees on the barren hills of the region only after holding a rally in Delhi. In 4 years they managed to convert the arid land into a sea of green, planting over 250,000 trees. The underground water table had risen considerably following the large-scale tree plantation.
For the farmers, fodder grown in the area became a major source of income. Following ample rains this season, they had been looking forward to a good crop, which they hoped, would fetch them Rs 1-1.5 lakhs.
But all that miserably went up in smoke. The trees and even the fodder and the hay stacks piled in the village were razed to the ground in a fire that was regarded as one of the worst in Pune district. Says Pansare, "It was a deliberate act. We had stopped people from grazing animals in the area, and those affected have resorted to this."